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July 10, 1997 2:00 AM
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The Rabbi Reports: Nantucket Part 3, The Rabbi Goes Sporting

The Rabbi Reports: Nantucket Part 3, The Rabbi Goes Sporting

by Mark Rabinowitz



One of my personal highlights of the festival was the Friday afternoon
Nantucket Nectars "celebrity" softball game. Filmmakers, actors, fest staff
and journalists were scattered somewhat willy-nilly by the pitching
brothers Burkhart, Jonathan (fest exec director) and Seth. All players were
outfitted with either plum or green apple-colored Nantucket Nectars shirts
and caps and given much needed Nutrogena 30 SPF sunblock. With the lineups
set by our fearless captain Jace Alexander, the green team took the field.


The injuries started mounting almost instantly, with fest staffer Joy Huang
injured both buttocks muscles running the bases, needing a pinch runner the
rest of the game, later, Marla Maples in a daring feat of team loyalty,
took one on the chin for the plum side. Marla actually knows her way around
the diamond, and swings a mean stick, too.


The day ended with our side needing five to tie and six to win, but alas
and alack, we came up a few runs short. Of my own performance, I can only
say that I performed adequately. I went 2-4, and was tagged out at home in
the first inning. To paraphrase the immortal words of some baseball sage or
other, I shoulda slud. Those who performed particularly well included: Jace
"Cappy" Alexander, Dana "MVP" Wheeler-Nicholson and Marla "Iron Jaw" Maples
as well as several others whose names have slipped through the sieve of my
mind, with the "We had to coax him into playing but he had fun just the
same" award going to writer/director Warren Leight ("The Night We Never Met").


After the game and a quick shower/change of clothes at my wonderful B&B, I
hot-footed it over to the Gaslight ("I'm not crazy! I'm not!") Theater to
witness one of the two overlooked (by distribs) festival vets that I saw
during the week. "Colin Fitz", written by Tom Morrissey and directed and
produced by Robert Bella, is an odd and cleverly written look at the cult
of personality surrounding dead rock stars and the relationship between two
very different, but equally inept security guards (Matt McGrath and Andy
Fowle). Strange but welcome turns by veteran actors William H. Macy, Martha
Plimpton and John C. McGinley help make this a film worth a look, and
definitely deserving of a second look by distributors.


On the other hand, Dorne Pentes' "The Closest Thing to Heaven" really needs a
first look. The film paints a picture of Charlotte, North Carolina that
none but a native could imagine. Bob Hawk has dubbed this film a "Charlotte
'Short Cuts'", agreeing that it could also be referred to as a Charlotte
"Nashville". However geographically confusing the latter moniker is, the film
melds five stories of the denizens of this Southern city, and holds them
together with both overlapping characters and a wonderful white-suited
Narrator, peddling from scene to scene on his bicycle, giving a loving and
often irreverent tour of the city. The film has won awards at various
festivals, including Atlanta Film and Video, New Orleans, North Carolina
and San Jose Cinequest. Not playing many "industry" fests after its
screenings at the 1996 IFFM definitely unfairly hurt its initial chances at
domestic distribution. Look again, folks. This one's a gem.

A third program of note at the festival was a series of documentary shorts
that had previously aired on "Edgewise", the MS-NBC show that is exec
produced by R.J. Cutler (prod. "The War Room", dir. "A Perfect Candidate"). "Edgewise" is an excellent opportunity for documentary filmmakers, as their
work is shown to a television audience wider than is often the case with
theatrically distributed docs, and they have the chance to work with
Cutler, a veteran of several successful films. The selections chosen for
the fest were by and large well made and informative, with special notice
given to: "Hell House", a piece focusing on a fundamentalist Christian "house
of horrors", designed to scare people into leading so-called pious
lifestyles by demonstrating the evils of homosexuality (gives you AIDS,
doncha know!) and abortions, among other "sins"; "Smoking", a segment wherein
nicotine teenagers speak frankly about their love of cigarettes, and
"Self-Deliverance", a debate about doctor assisted suicide in the Northern
Territory of Australia (previously the only place on Earth where such
practices are legal, the laws having since been overturned).


A TALE OF THREE DUFFERS


On Sunday it was my pleasure to play in (and win) the first annual
Nantucket Rabbi Invitational Golf Tournament. I was joined on the links by the aforementioned filmmakers (and noted golfers!) Pentes and Cutler. Dorne was
a veteran of zero rounds of golf prior to teeing off, and R.J. and I had
played nine holes previously. The event was sponsored by Jack Daniels
distillery and kind farms ltd., and the idea was for Dorne and me to pitch
R.J. a couple of segments for "Edgewise". Well, actually, the idea was for us
to play golf, but we worked in a couple of pitches along the way. The round
was rife with Mulligans (do-overs) but we actually putted until the ball
was in the cup. No 'gimmies' for us! The sun was hot, and we were by far
the slowest folks on the course, giving way to several faster-playing
groups, but we didn't mind. Dorne's pitch was quite well received by R.J.,
but mine smacked of the "lovable loser" syndrome. Apparently a no-no in
journalistic television circles. At the close of the round, I had shot a
65. Would have been phenomenal for an 18-hole course, but as we were on a
nine-holer... not so phenomenal. Ah, well. I'll get better... I hope.
Anyway, the country club set better look out, as there's a movement of
independent filmmakers looking to take over their fairways and golf carts.
They'll never look the same way at folks in t-shirts and Doc Martins again!

All in all, the festival was a fun and relaxing experience, recharging my
batteries just in time for Summer in NYC. True, the national press coverage
of the fest wasn't as high as it should be, and there was a notable lack of
premieres and therefore, acquisition execs, but I don't think that this
festival is trying to be another Sundance. It's about the craft of
screenwriting, and therefore the films are chosen for the quality of their
scripts, not for first-look, breakout potential. I wasn't at this fests
kick off in 1996, but if '97 is any example, it'll be around for quite some
time.

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